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Summary:

Android Market has grown its library to 20,000 apps as the competition with Apple’s App Store heats up. But Google must find ways to help users find what they’re looking for in its increasingly crowded storefront.

Android Market continues to grow its library in a big way, reaching 20,000 apps and doubling its library in just the last five months. But as Google’s storefront begins to nip at the heels of Apple’s App Store, it will need to find better ways of letting customers find what they’re looking for on its increasingly crowded shelves.

Android has gained impressive momentum in the last few months thanks to Verizon Wireless’ $100 million marketing effort and an expanding worldwide footprint. That growth will continue to be mirrored by Android Market, which will see fivefold growth in its app library next year, outpacing development for the iPhone, according to IDC. And the competition continues to heat up as Apple and Google release the latest versions of their mobile operating systems.

But as developers for Apple’s 100,000-app storefront have already learned, a massive app store makes for a rotten shopping experience for consumers. Users often have to sort through countless titles to find what they’re looking for, and reviews and ranking systems often favor popular offerings at the expense of newer, lesser-known titles. Which is why developers are increasingly looking to market their apps (GigaOM Pro, sub. required) to attract attention in the ever-expanding app-store portfolios. The discoverability problem is only going to get worse for Android over the next few months as its library expands, and Google’s laissez faire strategy of supporting nearly any app does nothing to help separate the mobile wheat from the chaff for consumers. Google seems well on its way to following Apple’s lead in becoming a massive distributor of mobile apps, but it must find innovative ways to enhance discoverability if it is to improve on Cupertino’s App Store.

Image courtesy Flickr user benmarvin.

  1. “Google’s laissez faire strategy of supporting nearly any app does nothing to help separate the mobile wheat from the chaff for consumers.”

    Are you suggesting that Google should start restricting and rejecting apps like Apple does?

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  2. This is like the third post I have read that cites Android Market’s “inferior” 20,000 apps as compared to Apple’s 100,00 – then infers that Android Market will never succeed because of the 8:1 ratio.

    Using that same logic, then Apple Computers ( desktop and laptop ) should “give up” because of their “inferior” numbers as compared to PCs running the Windows OS?

    If Apple laptops and desktops are a “success” even though they sell 10 times fewer pieces of hardware compared to Dell, HP, etc…

    …then the Android market is a “success” too.

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    1. Todd

      Just as an FYI, look at the revenues/profits of Apple’s computer business and that of Dell and HP. Apple is doing what a for-profit entity is supposed to do: make money, not collect revenues.

      As for the Android Market, well have you tried to discover apps? Well it is a major issue and developers have started to speak up about it. I think Google needs to get its act together and build a smoother, superior experience to Apple’s App store if it wants to beat them at the game.

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      1. Om,

        If the quality of the market experience is the problem, then the original post should have focussed on that. It was the original post which brought up the misleading arguments of app numbers and Google’s “laissez faire strategy”. Todd is merely pointing out the contradictions apparent in this blog post.

        LL

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    2. It’s a 5:1 ratio, not 8:1.

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  3. @ Libran Lover

    I don’t think Google necessarily needs to play gatekeeper, but I do think there’s an opportunity for an app distributor who culls only the best and most interesting apps for consumers. (That’s very subjective, admittedly.) I wrote about that on GigaOM Pro a few months ago: http://pro.gigaom.com/2009/10/needed-a-neiman-marcus-for-mobile-apps/ (sub. required)

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  4. I wonder if the author ever wrote an article titled, “The Problem with the Internet’s Growth.” Of course, Google and other sites pretty much have that problem under control.

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  5. This is something that turned me off on the Android Market. Sure, there’s no verification process. But this leads to hundreds and hundreds of totally worthless apps. A quick search for “what’s new” brought me 10 ‘flashlight’ apps, a bunch of “sexy girl screensaver” apps, a bunch of cartoon show soundboard apps, and a bunch of useless “show a picture after you finish a phone call” applications. Basically, the Android Market is now a dumping ground for cheap spammy foreign-made (easy to tell because of the poor grammar in the apps themselves) applications. Bug filled, junk ridden apps.

    Sorry but I’d really rather have SOME sort of approval process. Ratings can easily be faked, as we saw with the chinese developer shilling their own apps.

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  6. Someone needs to play gatekeeper, or Android could get brand damage for propogating phishing apps.

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  7. With respect, I’ll trust Google’s algorithm for ranking apps. My experience has been the most popular in each category is weighted for quality and apps with lower install counts have a presence so I believe Google is doing a good job.

    The complaints you’re hearing are no doubt those who invested resources and hope to be at the head of the Android wave. Same sob stories all over the iPhone.

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  8. [...] enjoy. Unfortunately for Android users, despite having to sift through far fewer apps, the task is even harder as no great system of browsing the possibilities as been put in [...]

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  9. Problem? Growth is not a problem, but how the growth is handled can be a problem. I want to be able to peruse available apps to see what I might find helpful on my myTouch. It would be much better to do this from my computer when it is a much faster process than searching on my phone.

    Well … well … well.

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  10. I hate it when people quote a Gartner or IDC estimate without providing a rationale. Gartner and IDC are incredibly inept at estimates or predictions of anything other than PC sales, where they are saved by the law of large numbers.

    By the way, apptism.com is already tracking over 122K apps in the App Store, so altho Android Market is growing nicely, it’s far from nipping at heels.

    The article would have been much more interesting and valuable if it had offered up ideas on how to solve the problem.

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